Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Over the past couple of days, I’ve been thinking a lot about horses and acceptance. Silk and Siete have helped me find acceptance on two levels. First, I have a greater acceptance of who I am.  I began spending time around horses and finding delight in them way back when my mother used to push me in a baby stroller to a pasture near our home to visit the horses that lived there.  As I grew older, I seemed to always be around adults, especially my mother, who could be very judgmental and critical and who had expectations about what they wanted me to be, even if that wasn’t really who I was.  This was never true at the barn, where I spent as much time as possible. The horses just accepted me.  In fact, no matter where they are, horses have always welcomed me. They have never tried to exclude me or judge me, and their curiosity awakens my curiosity. It stimulates my awareness of the smallest details and the slightest nuances.  They fine tune me.

The second level of finding acceptance came when I bought Silk.  I was going through a rough time in my life, full of  tumultuous emotions and betrayals, and found myself often unable to control what was happening, no matter how hard I tried to change it. Silk showed me that she could accept what had happened to her – a man had badly beaten her – but not let it break her spirit. Despite how humans had hurt her, she was willing to accept my friendship and trust me.  One day, while I was brushing her, I was jolted by the realization that I didn’t always have to like what was happening to me, but in order to move forward, I had to accept it.  Even now, my horses, day in and day out, express acceptance and tolerance.  They see the world as it is, and they make the best of it. They remind me that I have to do that too.

It is very understandable to me why women and girls are so drawn to horses. These big powerful creatures are willing to simply accept human beings and do not see them as flawed. People who are afraid or regarded by others in our society as weak or insignificant or damaged are able to find their power while they are relating to a horse.  The horse is “other-centered”, not  “self-centered” -- without an ego or an axe to grind. Anyone who is “hyper-vigilant” shares a sharp awareness with every horse (and that includes not only people with PTSD or those who have been abused, but any woman or girl who knows the fear of walking alone in the dark or getting into an elevator with a stranger). Being on a horse gives a person power and strength that they probably don’t feel on the ground standing on only two little human feet.  On the back of a horse, joined together, you can run like the wind and jump so high it feels like you are flying. You can escape and you can overcome and you can be free from whatever confines you.  You can give a horse as much love as you want and feel appreciated and accepted and needed in ways that most humans are hesitant to share with each other.

Just thinking about how much my horses give me makes me want to run right out to the barn and thank them. What did we humans do to deserve such a gift?

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Challenger

Most mornings, I stagger out to the barn after gulping down a half of a cup of coffee, feed breakfast to the horses and open the stall doors without much consciousness.  I will notice the sunrise or the symphony of the birds but my brain is still on auto-pilot.  And usually, it doesn’t matter. The horses greet me with their welcoming murmurs, nnnmmmh, nnnnmmmh, and bury their noses into the good green hay. 

So this week, when Siete decided to mix things up, I wasn’t at all ready for it.  I yanked open her stall door which sort of sticks because of all the ice and old hay on the ground, and she came flying out, bucking and squealing. Luckily, I was behind the door instead of in front of it or she would have flattened me.  This is not okay, I told her as she snorted, spun around in a circle and stuffed her face into the flake of hay that I had thrown on the ground in the corral. In my foggy mind, I knew I had to do something to remind her that I am the leader, and I had to do it right now. But what? All I could think of was to make her back up away from the hay and wait until I told her that she could come back and eat it.  So I waved my arms, made myself puff up big and stepped towards her. She looked up at me like “who are you kidding, lady?” I did it again, telling her, “Get back, Jack. Move it!” Siete grudgingly stepped away about three feet from the hay. We stood frozen in time for a few seconds and then, I thanked her and told her it was okay to come back.  Man, who needs that so early in the morning before a second cup of coffee?

Next morning, I was prepared for it. I heard Siete getting riled up as I opened Silk’s door. Her mother just ignored this silliness and ate her breakfast peacefully.  This time, not wanting a confrontation, I threw a carrot in Siete’s bucket to distract her. While she wolfed it down, I opened the stall door.  As I walked away, she came charging out, all fired up again. I ignored her and headed back inside for more coffee, but it worried me all day.  What would Tom Dorrance do? Or Mark Rashid? Or Carolyn Resnick? And why does my little horse feel the need to challenge me? Spring fever or is she just pissed off about all this snow and ice? Really, who could blame her for being annoyed.

Since the day she was born, Siete has known how to push my buttons.  The first time she reared up at the end of a lead rope, she realized that I was a wimp.  I believe that her purpose on earth is to teach me to not be afraid and to stand up for myself. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a very sweet, usually well-mannered little horse until unexpectedly, she gets a wild hair up her butt and does something frightening to confront me. In our little herd of three, she is low man on the totem pole, and her mama never lets her forget it. So, it’s only natural that she tests me every once in a while to see if she can get away with it and improve her standing.

This morning, I was in no mood for a fight. I gave Siete her breakfast and opened Silk’s door first as usual. Then, I just stood in front of Siete’s stall, leaning my elbows on the bottom half of the Dutch door. She ate her hay, but I could feel her energy building as she waited for me to open the door so she could bolt out.  Instead, I talked to her. I explained that I was getting old, didn’t move as quickly as I used to and that it was scary when she tried to push me out of the way and if something happened to me, who else was going to get up this early and bring  food out here? So, she needed to re-think things a bit and give me a break. She gave me the evil eye as she continued to chow down. I told her that I understood how annoying it was that the pasture was too icy to run around and that more snow was coming today just when we thought that we were through with this stupid cold weather. But guess what?  It’s the Spring Equinox  at last, and we have to have faith that sweet green grass is coming soon, along with soft warm breezes.  

Then, I just stood there and breathed and emptied my mind and stopped worrying about what would happen when I opened the door. Siete settled into eating her hay, and the muscles in her front legs and neck relaxed. I waited a moment longer and slowly opened the door. She lifted her head and I said, “Whoa. Just whoa, baby.” She looked me right in the eye and didn’t move. When I got the door secured and I stepped out of the corral, I told her, “Okay.” Shaking her mane emphatically, my charming adversary trotted out to seize the day.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Taking Care of Each Other

Yesterday was the first time in many months that I was able to really hang out with Silk and Siete and enjoy the warm sun.  As the Big Melt begins, the challenge is to keep our poor old barn from flooding once again.  Yes, my friend Sam is going to fix the drainage and make this problem go away when the ground thaws, but we are weeks away from that.  Siete’s stall is oozing up brown water, and I’ve been pouring bags of wood pellets into it each day, hoping to dam up the flood until at least next week when my husband will be back home.  In my overzealous shoveling, I have really tweaked my back so I am very mindful that I need to go slow and take lots of time as I try to keep Siete’s bedroom dry enough for her to sleep in it each night.

I just stood with the girls in the sun, not feeling the need to tell them anything or to do anything. We stayed together for a long time, and I felt their peace and happiness, helping to reassure me that everything was going to be okay.  I thought about how I recently had my Tarot cards read by a very gifted woman named Laura, who is remarkably psychic.  She talked to me a lot about the horses, who were very present in my cards, and asked me to show her a photo of Silk.  I found one on my phone and handed it to her.  Laura held her palm over it and began to communicate with Silk.  Tears started to roll down her cheeks.  She said, “That’s so beautiful. I asked Silk about you and she told me, ’We take care of each other”.  So true, we have been doing that for over 18 years now.

And as I absorbed the warmth, standing between my two horses with one hand on each of their backs to ground me, at one point, my monkey mind stirred up some worry about the rain that is predicted for Saturday, and where was all this dirty snow and water going to go.  My thoughts were interrupted by a voice in my head that I’ve come to recognize as Silk’s.  My horse told me, “You know how to do this. You will figure it out and we will be okay.” I relaxed and stopped thinking.

At night, as I climbed into bed, slowly easing my aching back down, I remembered that my daughter will be home for Spring break, and my neighbor’s strong, young son will come over to help us, and I am so lucky that they both are willing and able to face whatever happens with me when the rain comes. As Silk says, “We take care of each other.”

Monday, March 2, 2015

Magical Mystery Tour

I think I’ve finally thawed out from my trip to New York City on Saturday to visit the carriage horses and drivers at the Clinton Park Stables and in Central Park.  The welcome was so warm that I barely noticed the cold temperatures or the wind at the time.  Over two hundred people tramped through the historic stables as the grooms and drivers went about their daily routine of hitching up the horses and moving the carriages out to the park.  The horses were amazing.

Not one horse ever showed any signs of anxiety or distress. They enjoyed the attention and the carrots and the noise. They stood patiently, not even tied, as they waited to go to work.  I’ve been around a lot of horses, at competitions, racetracks, and in all kinds of barns. The carriage horses are happy creatures, so loved and well cared for, and their behavior shows how they know that they are just where they are meant to be.

I was able to meet many of the people that I’ve come to know and admire on-line: drivers Ariel Fintzi, Steven Malone, Christina Hansen, Eva Hughes. Video and still photographers, Sandi Bachom, Nina Galicheva. Poet and photographer  Doug Anderson. And of course, there was  the loving presence of Pamela and Paul Rickenbach Moshimer along with their merry band of hardworking horse lovers from Blue Star Equiculture, spreading their good energy to warm up the crowd.
Then, I had one of those amazing, never to be forgotten experiences.  Ariel offered to transport me and my daughter from the stables to the park.  His horse, Rebecca, won my heart in a big way.  Ariel snuggled us in under some big, soft cozy blankets, and Rebecca began her calm, steady route. They vary the way to and from the park so that the horse is comfortable and unafraid going wherever Ariel asks her to travel.  We never had an anxious moment, as taxis and trucks and cars sped around us, and Ariel turned to talk to us, leaving the reins in his lap while Rebecca navigated across many lanes of traffic.  I felt that we were surrounded by this protective glow, and while everyone was rushing, we were moving at a relaxed pace where we could appreciate all the sights and sounds of New York City. I almost felt like we were floating. Often, as we passed by, people would stop what they were doing, smiles would light up when they saw the horse, and they would wave at us.  Clip clop, clip clop, the rhythm was sort of in sync with the beat of my heart.

In the park, Ariel began his magical tale, telling us about the history of horses in the park, about his parents and his childhood, about his friendship and experiences with Chief Arvol and the Native American friends he has made.  While he talked, many memories of my 18 years living in New York City began to flood over me.  I spent so much time in Central Park, needing to feel the grass and trees and to visit the carriage horses while I was in my twenties and thirties in order to keep my balance in that sharp edged, ambitious town.  As Ariel sang us a touching and beautiful song that he has written for his horse, I realized that every day, he lives and works in the ethereal space of unexpected magic – the same magic that I experienced and loved while I was young and growing up in New York.  No wonder he has done it for 35 years.  He helped me fall in love with this powerful, mystical city all over again.

I could have stayed in the protective bubble of Ariel’s carriage forever, but after a couple of hours, he noticed that my child was turning into an icicle so we headed over to 59th Street. When I drove into the city that morning, I had expected that I would see a confrontation between the protesters and the carriage horse and driver supporters, but the rally had been cancelled and there was not a single protester in sight.  I realized how glad I was that my memories of this magical mystery tour were completely loving and happy.

Soon, I will edit the video that I shot and post it, after I spend some time wrestling with the new editing program that I am trying to learn.  I hope it will capture some of the glory of the horses and the drivers. They were so gracious and welcoming to everyone who came to visit them at the stables.

We made a wonderful new friend, Ariel, who has the most joyful and open spirit. He was incredibly kind to us. And I am thankful that I was able to once again share my love of horses and New York City with my daughter.  I know that she had an experience that she’ll never forget, even if her lips were blue.